Former national security adviser John Bolton took centre stage at U.S. President Donald Trump‘s impeachment trial even though he was nowhere near the Capitol.
Bolton’s claims in a forthcoming book — that Trump told him he wanted to withhold security aid from Ukraine until it launched investigations into political rival Joe Biden — ramped up pressure on GOP senators to call him to testify.
Trump’s legal team has repeatedly insisted there was no linkage, and Trump tweeted on Monday that he never told Bolton such a thing.
Biden’s son Hunter also came under scrutiny as Trump’s lawyers focused on his high-paying job with a Ukrainian energy company when his father was vice-president.
Highlights of Monday’s session and what’s ahead as senators conduct just the third impeachment trial of a president.
Bolton’s testimony has been the subject of fierce debate for months, but it leaped to the forefront as news leaked of his claims in a forthcoming book. Bolton writes that Trump told him he wanted to withhold security aid from Ukraine until it helped him with investigations into Biden. Bolton’s written account, first reported by The New York Times, was confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the manuscript on the condition of anonymity.
The revelation increases pressure on Republican senators to call Bolton and perhaps other witnesses, a push they have so far resisted. At least four senators would need to buck GOP leaders and form a bipartisan majority to call Bolton or other witnesses. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said the report about Bolton’s book “strengthens the case” for witnesses, while Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said it’s “increasingly clear that what John Bolton would have to say would be important for those of us asked to render impartial justice.”
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a key Republican moderate, said she has long been curious about what Bolton might have to say, adding that “I’m still curious.”
Trump denied Bolton’s claims in tweets early Monday. “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Trump wrote. “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
Trump said people could look at rough transcripts of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy to see there was no pressure for such investigations to get the aid. In that July 25 call, Trump asked Zelinskiy to “do us a favour” with the investigations as he was withholding nearly US$400 million in military aid to the U.S. ally at war with Russia.